Review–WOLF BY WOLF

Win the race.

Kill Hitler.

Or die trying.

There you go. That’s the story. Sorry about the spoilers (not really–those are the three lines of the cover blurb).

I won’t tell you everything that happens in and around those lines, but I will tell you this: if you like adventure and suspense and speculation and fine writing, you should read this book. The author, Ryan Graudin, has written a near-perfect story based on the premise of the U.S. staying out of World War Two and Hitler having his way with Europe and forming an alliance with Japan that is still governing (terrorizing) Europe, Africa, and Asia into the 1950s, when this story takes place.

The protagonist is a girl with a devastating past, a heart full of determination, and talents that exceed anything you’re likely to imagine. She’s brave beyond words but also human, and you’ll pull for her as she takes on her assignment and carries it to the edge of reason and beyond.

Another World War Two story? you say. Not really. And so what if it is? The horrors of Nazi Germany aren’t one-dimensional and singular. They aren’t something we can simply compartmentalize and say, well, that couldn’t happen again. Look around. It could. To a certain extent, it already is. WOLF BY WOLF isn’t a “message” story, but the message is there nonetheless. In many countries today, tyrants rule, and citizens have no rights. Terror is a constant companion. In a democracy, we have choices, but if we make the wrong ones, or if we don’t exercise our right to vote, we could end up in the same situation.

I’ve been asked in the past when I’m going to move on from writing kids’ books to writing something for adults. The implication is that writing stories for kids is easier, and that the product is inferior, and that a “real” writer would be focusing on the adult market. I generally try not to get defensive. I usually point out that some of the best writing being done is done for kids, and then I refer the person to books that rival anything being done for “big people.” I could give you a list here, but if you’re reading this entry, you probably have your own.

In any case, the next time someone suggests to me that I need to graduate to adult books, I’ll give them my usual spiel on books for young people, and suggest they try WOLF BY WOLF.

The ending cries out for a sequel, and just as I finished WOLF I learned that there is, if not a sequel, at least a companion book. It’s apparently an e-book only at this time, and focuses on another character in WOLF. I hope a true sequel is on its way.

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